Bill Brantley

The Value of Federal Government Data

Dr. Bill Brantley covers the application of infonomics as a way to help agencies to measure and use data for organizational innovation and digital transformation.

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The Data Briefing: How to Build a Chatbot in a Weekend

As chatbots have become more popular, some online sites will let you create a chatbot with little or no programming.

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The Data Briefing: Will Artificial Intelligence Tools Replace or Augment Federal Employees?

A Washington, D.C. think tank recently released reports advocating using artificial intelligence (AI) tools to reorganize the federal government.

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The Data Briefing: How Blockchain’s Future Growth Will Affect Federal Agencies

Blockchains are an innovative technology which promises to radically change how society conducts business. It will take significant changes in organizational processes before agencies can begin to support blockchains.

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How Federal Leaders Can Build the Will, Skill, and Velocity Needed for Digital Transformation

Learning—and practicing—five imperatives of network leadership can help agencies improve their odds for successful digital transformation. Many organizations are undergoing digital transformation because the organizations see that it is necessary for long-term survival. However, digitally reinventing the organization is “one of the hardest journeys to make.” According to industry experts, two-thirds of organizations will fail

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The Data Briefing: Federal Government Pioneers in Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality Training

When I was in the private sector, around the year 2000, I worked for an information technology (IT) consulting company as a project manager and developer. On one project, I provided support for early mobile devices given to medical students. I worked in a small office around the corner from the cardio-respiratory simulator (CRS). The

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The Data Briefing: Ten Years of Digital Transformation—Lessons Learned

Since 2007, a major consulting firm has conducted an annual survey on organizations’ “Digital IQ.” In the ten years of organizations grappling with digital transformation, what has been learned?

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The Data Briefing: The Arrival of Generation Z into the Federal Government. And Generation A?

In the last national election, the earliest born members of Generation Z voted for the first time. In 2019, the American workforce will see the influx of tens of millions of Gen Zers who, according to some researchers, will be a stark contrast to the Millennials that will make the largest part of the 2020

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The Data Briefing: the Promise – and Perils – of Artificial Emotional Intelligence

The first chatbot, ELIZA, was created back in 1964 to demonstrate that communication between humans and computers would be superficial. However, much to Dr. Weizenbaum’s (ELIZA’a creator) surprise, people easily formed friendly relationships with the computer program. People forming relationships with ELIZA was especially surprising considering just how simple the program was regarding generating conversational

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The Data Briefing: Design-Driven Enterprise Architecture Creating the New Federal Government Agency

It’s been a while since I’ve checked in on enterprise architecture (EA). My last in-depth work with EA was around 2011 when I was on detail to the Office of Personnel Management’s Open Government Team. The EA model I worked with was the top-down organizational design of information technology assets, data assets, and business processes.

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The Data Briefing: How to Best Prepare Federal Government Datasets for Chatbots

Forbes magazine recently ran an article showcasing six handy mobile apps that were built using federal government open data. The apps range from the Alternative Fueling Station Locator to ZocDoc (a doctor locator). What I especially like about the Forbes article is that the author describes the federal government data sets behind each app. There

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The Data Briefing: The Department of Education Needs Your Help with their First Developers’ Site

The Department of Education (ED) launched its first developer site. The developer site is built on GitHub which will make it easier for ED to centralize their code and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Currently, ten APIs are on the developer site: The Civil Right Data Collection (CRDC) APIs: These three APIs give information on public

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The Data Briefing: Understand Serverless Architecture in Three Minutes

You may have heard of “serverless architecture” or Amazon Web Services (AWS) Lambda product and wondered what is unique about this new buzzword. As with many new digital cloud technologies, serverless architecture could mean two things. It may be applications that are built using third-party cloud applications. Or serverless architectures could be pieces of code

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The Data Briefing: Finding the New Federal Government Technologists

This week, I want to briefly discuss the human resources challenges in finding the new IT technology workers for the government. As agencies move toward microservices, artificial intelligence chatbots, and deep learning application programming interfaces (APIs), the demand for experts in these fields continues to grow fast. The universities and professional development programs are not

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The Data Briefing: Why and How to Attend Your First Hackathon

December 9, 2016, will be the 110th anniversary of Admiral Grace Hopper’s birthday. Admiral Hopper was a pioneer in computer programming who created the first compiler and whose ideas lead to the creation of COBOL. An apocryphal legend also credits Admiral Hopper with coining the terms “bug” and “debugging.” The GSA’s IT Digital Service Team

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The Data Briefing: It Takes an Online Community to Digitally Transform an Organization

The open source movement has changed how we develop software, create content, and even do science. Using a community to help complete projects and bring about change has become so ubiquitous in the last ten years that it has even earned a name — crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is a powerful tool and is now being used to help

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The Data Briefing: Four Steps to Becoming a Data-Driven Organization

As the Federal government agencies begin the digital transformation journey, becoming a data-driven organization is even more vital. What does it mean to become a data-driven organization? According to one definition, “[a] data-driven company is an organization where every person who can use data to make better decisions, has access to the data they need

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The Data Briefing: Learning from the U.S. Cities on How to Implement Big Data Initiatives

A recent study of big data initiatives in 65 cities has interesting guidance for Federal big data initiatives. The researchers studied how data is collected and then used for decision making in what they called “the framework for Big Data initiatives.” There are two major cycles in the framework: “The data cycle governs the tools

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The Data Briefing: Help Predict the Future of Federal Government Data

In December, I plan to write two postings detailing a scenario analysis for the next ten years of the Federal government’s data technologies. Governments are on the cusp of amazing technological advances propelled by artificial intelligence, blockchain technologies, and the Internet of Things. Also, governments will face new challenges such as the recent global cyber

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The Data Briefing: Using Artificial Intelligence to Augment the Work of Frontline Government Employees

You have probably read about the recent release of the White House’s report on using artificial intelligence (AI). As with previous technologies, AI holds much promise in the areas of education, commerce, criminal justice, the environment—almost all aspects of the American public’s life. AI also poses a danger if it is not properly managed and

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The Data Briefing: Twenty Years of USAJOBS

I recently sat down with Michelle Earley, Program Manager, to discuss the new changes for the 20th anniversary of USAJOBS. 1) What are the three big lessons learned from 20 years of building and managing USAJOBS? I think one of the greatest benefits of being an Agile program is that we are constantly learning. In

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The Data Briefing: The Federal Data Cabinet—Promoting Data Literacy, Cultural Change, and the Federal Data Applications Ecosystem

Last Wednesday, the White House held the first Open Data Summit to showcase the open data accomplishments of the Obama Administration. One of the highlights was the formation of a government-wide “data cabinet.” Announced by Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil, the data cabinet is essentially a community of practice comprising the Federal agency’s data professionals. As

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The Data Briefing: A New Perspective on the Digital Transformation of Government

One day, at an unnamed agency, the Outlook server crashed. The server stayed down for the rest of the afternoon. Deprived of email and meeting calendars, employees wandered around trying to remember what meetings they had to attend. Other employees went searching for people who they ordinarily would email. There was confusion that made people

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The Data Briefing: Should U.S. Federal Employees Become Data Science Literate?

The United Kingdom’s (UK) Digital Service has researched ways to increase data science literacy among the UK public service. Data science literacy goes further than data literacy, in that civil servants will know how to apply data science concepts and methods in their everyday work. I thought it would be useful to share the UK

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The Data Briefing: Harnessing the Internet of Things and Synthetic Data to Provide Better Flood Warnings and Prevent Veterans Suicides

Two significant items in federal government data in the last few weeks: The Department of Commerce releases the National Water Model. The National Water Model provides a comprehensive model of river flows so local communities can better prepare for possible flooding events. What is especially amazing about the National Water Model is that it pulls

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The Data Briefing: Microservices and Serverless Apps — A New Direction for Federal Government Mobile Apps?

Continuing from last week’s column on DevOps and containers, I will explain two other hot trends in IT — microservices and serverless apps. For those who want official federal government guidance, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released a draft special publication on microservices, application containers, and system virtual machines (PDF, 660

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The Data Briefing: DevOps and Containers and Why They Are Important to Transforming Federal Government IT

You may have heard about “DevOps” in the news or when meeting with IT professionals. What exactly is DevOps and what, if any, connection does it have with agile? Also, what do “containers” have to do with all of this? In this week’s column, I will introduce DevOps and a related technology: containers. Some DevOps

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The Data Briefing: FINDing Great Global Development Data Visualizations Courtesy of the State Department

Federal agencies have been releasing some fascinating data visualization tools in the last year. Recently, the State Department unveiled the Beta version of FIND or the “F Interagency Network Databank.” From the description in the FAQ: “The F Interagency Network Databank (FIND) is an online tool that enables users to explore and analyze national level

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The Data Briefing: The Census Business Builder—Mashing Up Census Data to Help Build Businesses

The Census Bureau conducts more surveys than just the Constitutionally-mandated Decennial Census. There is also the American Community Survey, the Economic Census, the County Business Patterns series, statistics on Nonemployer businesses, and the Survey of Business Owners and Self-Employed Persons. On their own, each survey is full of useful information for researchers, local and state governments, and entrepreneurs.

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The Data Briefing: “PreparedGo” – The Federal Emergency Management Agency Mobile App

While you are outside hunting Pokemon or helping your children hunt Pokemon, consider adding another mobile app to your smartphone or tablet. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) mobile app alerts you about severe weather and other natural disasters. The app is also a great information resource on surviving disasters and connects you to FEMA

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The Data Briefing: Mobile Apps, Responsive Web Sites, and the “Mobile Moment”

The debate between responsive websites and mobile apps took a decisive turn this week when the United Kingdom’s Digital Service (UKDS) banned the creation of mobile apps. In an interview with GovInsider, the founder of UKDS, Ben Terrett, explained that mobile apps were too expensive to build and maintain. Responsive websites were easier to build

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The Data Briefing: I, For One, Welcome Our New Chatbot Blockchain Digital Autonomous Organizations

It is at the intersections of fields where you find the most fascinating and innovative concepts. Recently, a conference on “Open Human Resources and the Cognitive Era” explored the use of chatbots and blockchain technologies in human resources. Human Resources (HR) is quietly undergoing a revolution as many HR practitioners are transforming HR by using

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The Data Briefing: Innovating Processes the Lean and Agile Way

Business processes have fascinated me since I took an undergraduate philosophy course in modern business management. A part-time professor who was a management consultant by day taught this unusual class. Perhaps business management thinking was first experimenting with ideas that would later lead to the agile and lean movement today. From this class I learned

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The Data Briefing: NASA’s New Big Data Strategy

Few other federal agencies deal with as much data as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Big science creates big data, and NASA manages many of the biggest science projects in world history. Even in the early days of NASA’s history, NASA pioneered new ways to create and store data. So, in the world

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The Data Briefing: Better Crowdsourced Federal Government Projects Through Cognitive Computing

Cognitive computing has been receiving a good deal of attention lately as more companies have been building intelligent agents. Ever since IBM Watson’s 2011 appearance on Jeopardy, cognitive computing has spread into healthcare, investing and even veterinary medicine. However, it is only recently that cognitive computing has spread into government applications. As the name implies,

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The Data Briefing: Introducing the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s New Open Data Portal

My first column when I came back from last year’s summer sabbatical was on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) PatentsView project.

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The Data Briefing: What Makes a Great Federal Government App?

USAGov recently released a list of six great federal government mobile apps. There were many apps released by the federal government over the last 5-6 years on a wide range of topics and services. Many are well-designed and useful to the American public. So, what are the outstanding federal government apps for 2016?

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The Data Briefing: Engaging Citizens through CitizenScience.Gov

Last month, I worked to create a “Citizen Science Passport” for the federal agencies participating in the USA Science and Engineering Festival. Seven federal agencies offered some form of crowdsourcing or citizen science activity at their booths such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s exhibit on food safety or Environmental Protection Agency’s build-your-own air monitoring

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The Data Briefing: Tales from the Dark Side of Data

There are many scary tales in the world of knowledge management and data management. Tales of missing data that was lost through the administrative cracks, such as the story of the missing Apollo 11 moonwalk tapes that most likely were erased by accident. Or the 36-year search for the original Wright Brothers’ patent, which was

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The Data Briefing: Chatbots and the Rise of Conversational Commerce and Citizen Experience

Ten months ago, I wrote about the rise of the post-app world in which mobile personal assistants would do the work of five to 10 apps combined. These mobile personal assistants, now known as chatbots, would work through conversational interfaces (voice and instant messaging, for example). The idea is to build more natural interfaces for people

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The Data Briefing: Building an Open Government Data Ecosystem in the Federal Government

It has been over seven years since President Obama signed the executive order that launched the federal open data movement. Much progress has been made, and there is still more to do. Along with the United States, over 100 nations have started programs to provide open access to government data. From large metropolitan governments to

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The Data Briefing: An Interview with USAJOBS on New Changes to Their Data Services

The Office of Personnel Management released a new look and functionality to USAJOBS in February. I recently contacted Michelle Earley, the USAJOBS Program Manager, to ask about the changes to USAJOBS and the data it provides. 1. What are

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The Data Briefing: Three Significant Events in Federal Open Data This Past Week

Three recent stories demonstrate how opening up federal government data and using agile methods to create federal government software can spur innovation while saving tax money and helping the American public. In its Second Open Government National Action Plan (PDF, 639 KB, 5 pages, September 2014), the White House called for a government-wide policy on

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The Data Briefing: New Opportunities for American Cities and Communities Thanks to Open Data

Open data and APIs* have not only transformed the federal government; open data and APIs are also transforming tribal, state and local governments. Like federal agencies, some tribal, state and local governments are ahead of other governments in open data innovations. This situation reminds me of my earlier work with the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs

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The Data Briefing: Mobile Websites or Mobile Apps or Both?

The increasing sophistication of mobile devices has created many opportunities for developers. Thanks to APIs* and open data, developers can build thousands of mobile apps and mobile websites to meet users’ needs. This opportunity has created one of the most contentious debates in the mobile development community: mobile apps versus mobile websites? There is, yet,

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The Data Briefing: Serving Citizen Developers Inside and Outside of the Federal Government

Citizen developers are people who do not work in information technology (IT) but have built IT applications. Back in the mid-80s, business people would smuggle in personal computers to run their spreadsheets and word processing applications (anyone remember VisiCalc and Bank Street Writer?) instead of having to rely on data processing departments. Today, citizen developers

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The Data Briefing: The Challenge of Opening up Federal Government Algorithms

Algorithms are becoming more important as the amount of data grows, and the complexity of government and business processes grows. Put simply, an algorithm is just a set of steps for solving a problem. If you shop online, use an online social network or a mobile app to plan your route, then you are using

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The Data Briefing: Demand-Driven Open Data at Health and Human Services

For many agencies, what data to make open is left up to the agency’s judgment. This has worked well as agencies do a good job in understanding the public’s needs for specific datasets. Even so, as developers and citizens begin using the open datasets, there is increasing demand for specific agency datasets. The issue is

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The Data Briefing: Mapping the Big Data Ecosystem of U.S. Agriculture

The Congressional Research Service recently released a report (PDF, 688 kb, 17 pages, January 2016) describing the big data ecosystem for U.S. agriculture. The purpose of the report was to understand the federal government’s role in emerging big data sources and technologies involved in U.S. agriculture. As the report author, Megan Stubbs, points out, there is

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The Data Briefing: Improving the Federal Government Through Mobile Apps

Federal agencies are doing well in fulfilling the 2012 Digital Government Strategy by providing numerous mobile apps for American citizens. According to a report from IBM’s Center for the Business of Government, 76 federal agencies have at least one mobile app. As of July 2015, there are nearly 300 federal government mobile apps that provide

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The Data Briefing: 2016 Trends That Could Affect Federal Government Data

Many IT pundits predict 2016 will be a major tipping point in data and related technologies. Here are just a few predictions: 1) The Internet of Things—The number of devices that can connect to the Internet increases, especially in consumer electronics. Also, the number of sensors will dramatically increase providing more real-time data on weather,

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The Data Briefing: Using Federal Open Data to Understand How Government Performs

Some highlights from the recent fall conference of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management: Localities that receive disaster mitigation funds also have more disaster declarations. Longer, more detailed proposed regulations receive fewer challenges to implementing the regulation. Agencies that are better at quantifying their results are safer from budget cuts. The findings above

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The Data Briefing: Design for Developer Experience (DX) and Data Prosumer Experience (DPX)

Recently, DigitalGov devoted an entire month to exploring how good user experience (UX) helps government design better digital products and services. UX is the art and science of understanding how people will use a website or mobile app to solve a problem or meet a need. UX is a combination of neuroscience, communication theory, information

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The Data Briefing: Air and Space Museum Launches New Mobile App into the Frontier of STEM Education

The Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum just released a new educational mobile app, Mobile Missions. From the website: “Find out if you are cut out for a career in aerospace with our free mobile app, Mobile Missions. Take our quiz to discover the best aerospace career for you. Explore objects from our collection related to

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The Data Briefing: Does the Federal Government Have an Obligation to Educate Open Data Users?

Pop quiz on statistics and data science (answers at the end of the article): 1) I have some data on accidents at railroad crossings. One variable indicates the compass direction a railroad crossing faces (North, Northwest, Northeast, and so on). This variable is a/an: Ordinal Categorical Directional Interval 2) I have some ordinal data that

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The Data Briefing: Help #HackSuicide This Weekend

A month ago, I wrote about the White House’s call for data scientists and app developers to come together to help combat suicide. On December 12, 2015, there will be five hackathons around the U.S. to #HackSuicide. All the hackathons are free and open to the public. Even if you are not a data scientist,

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The Data Briefing: The Open Government Data Revolution Is Just Getting Started

Some of you may remember when President Reagan opened America’s Global Positioning System (GPS) data. President Reagan gave all countries access to the GPS data in response to the Soviet Union shooting down Korean Airlines Flight 007 on September 1, 1983. I do not believe that the U.S. realized how much opening up GPS data

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The Data Briefing: How Neuroscience and Communication Theory Inform Good User Experience Design

Standing on the corner, waiting in the rain, I swear I’ll never, ever, use that app again. Why? Because the bad user experience (UX) design was preventing me from determining when the Metrobus would arrive. UX is everything from the visual design to the navigation structure of the website or mobile app. This month, DigitalGov

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The Data Briefing: Innovating Health Data at the HHS Idea Lab

By the time this is published, the United States, along with 160 other countries, will be celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week (November 16th through November 22nd). November is also National Entrepreneurship Month with November 17th being National Entrepreneurs’ Day. As President Obama stated in his proclamation: “In keeping with our goal of fostering economic growth through private-sector collaboration,

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The Data Briefing: Is That Drug Safe? – The FDA’s RR-Drug R/Shiny App

I (virtually) attended the Third Annual Safety Datapalooza last Thursday and was greatly impressed by the projects and initiatives for public safety. This was a great event, and I am glad that live streaming was provided for those who could not attend in person but have a great interest in using government data for disaster

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The Data Briefing: Create an App for Employees with Disabilities

Have you worked with an employee with a disability? Are you an employee with a disability? Then, you know the unique challenges of the average workplace that able-bodied colleagues may never experience. Workplace challenges could be overcome with accommodations such as larger computer monitor displays, wheelchair-accessible office furniture or a voice reader. In some cases,

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The Data Briefing: Highlights from 300 Federal Mobile Moments

DigitalGov’s theme this month is mobile moments, which explores the impact of mobile applications in the federal government. For this post, I am examining the more than 300 mobile apps created by the federal government. An updated list of federal mobile apps is on USA.gov. According to the list, 73 federal organizations have released mobile apps on a wide

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The Data Briefing: White House Asks Data Scientists and App Developers to Help Suicide Prevention Efforts

The White House issued a call on September 30, 2015, for data scientists and app developers to help with a vital public health issue: suicide prevention. From the official announcement: “If you are a data scientist, analyst, tech innovator, or entrepreneur interested in sharing ideas and resources for suicide prevention, we want to hear from

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The Data Briefing: Connecting the (Data) Dots—NASA’s NYSpaceTag App

OpenNASA has recently completed another redesign of their site. With over 31,000 data sets, 194 code repositories and 36 APIs, OpenNASA probably has the largest collection of open data of any of the federal agencies. An especially helpful feature is a set of icons devoted to five types

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The Data Briefing: Surrounded by Fields of Federal Data—U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s PatentsView

Hello, everyone. My summer sabbatical was short but educational, and I am glad to be back in the federal government. I am also excited to again take up the weekly API article that is now expanded to include all things federal government data. Much has happened in the open data realm, and there is much

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The API Briefing: Government APIs in a Post-Apps World

Take out your smartphone and count the number of apps that you have. How many of these apps do you use daily? What about the apps you use weekly? Do you have any apps that you installed but used only once? Any apps that you have never used? What kind of apps do you have?

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The API Briefing: the Challenge of Government’s Dark Data

By now, you are familiar with “big data” or datasets that are so large that they cannot be analyzed by conventional analytical methods. You may have heard of “long data” which is data that has a temporal context. I work with long data when I analyze hiring patterns over time in workforce data. There is

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The API Briefing: Make It an API – the Census Bureau’s Census of Governments

Serendipity can be a wonderful tool for discovery. I was looking through the Census Bureau site for some business census data when I came upon the 2012 Census of Governments. According to the official description: “[t]he Census of Governments identifies the scope and nature of the nation’s state and local government sector; provides authoritative benchmark

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The API Briefing: NASA Builds API.NASA.gov to Launch More APIs to Developers

NASA has been busy since we last visited their collection of APIs back in August 2014. NASA has just launched API.NASA.gov where developers can learn to use existing NASA

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The API Briefing: Five Federal APIs for Building a Government Jobs Finder Mobile App

The spring semesters are winding down at the universities where I teach. Many students are looking for summer internships or their first job after graduation. Of course, I talk about the opportunities in government through the Pathways program, the Presidential Management Fellows, or the various agency-specific internship programs. I’ve demonstrated USAJOBS in my classes, but

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The API Briefing: Be Prepared with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Mobile App

Before coming to DC in late 2008, I lived in Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville is in the Ohio Valley Region, which meteorologists euphemistically call “weather-rich.” With spring came the beautiful flowers and the Kentucky Derby. Spring also brought flooding, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and windstorms. This is why I had several emergency weather radios that also doubled

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The API Briefing: Top Five Findings for API Developers from Pew Research Center

The Pew Research Center just released a report on how Americans view open government data. The following findings were based on a November to December 2014 survey of 3,212 adults. Two-thirds of Americans use the Internet or an app to connect with the government. According to Pew, 37% use the Internet to connect with the

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The API Briefing: Making a Difference One Microtask at a Time

I recently found an app that provides a great service through crowdsourcing. Be My Eyes connects visually-impaired people with volunteers. Using the smartphone’s camera, the volunteers can perform tasks such as reading an expiration date or helping someone navigate unfamiliar surroundings. This is not a federal app, but I wanted to highlight it to demonstrate how

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The API Briefing: How Essential Is Government Data to the American Economy?

I grew up when home computers were first being introduced to the general public. I bought my first computer, a Commodore 64, after spending a summer of mowing lawns and saving up my birthday and Christmas money. It was not until I entered college that I became an infopreneur. Infopreneurs are entrepreneurs who used computers

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The API Briefing: How Do I Use This API? Good Documentation Practices from Department of Labor

When I first started coding using BASIC on the Commodore 64, I rarely documented my programs. Neither did many of my fellow programmers which led to numerous hours trying to figure out just exactly how a program worked. Documentation became more vital as programs became more feature rich and complex. In the API world, there

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The API Briefing: Free Federal Energy and Economic Information Delivered Straight to Your Spreadsheet

Back in November 2014, I wrote about the Federal Reserve of St. Louis’ FRED® (Federal Reserve Economic Data) API. A user can access 238,000 economic trends through FRED® through a website and mobile apps. What is unique about FRED® is that a user can pull economic data directly into an Excel spreadsheet. Now, the FRED®

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The API Briefing: Introduction to Web Components

Instead of writing about a specific federal API this week, I want to talk about a new, evolving way of building Web interfaces and complete applications. Web Components allow developers to create their element that extends the HTML5 set of tags. Developers can create a Web Component

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The API Briefing: Fulfilling the D(e)SIRE for Renewable Energy with the Department of Energy’s New API

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency® (DSIRE®) provides information on incentives and policies for renewables and energy efficiency in the U.S. This joint project by the Department of Energy and North Carolina State University just released an API to query DSIRE®’s database. Developers can view the sample

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The API Briefing: Practicing Safe App Development with Secure Federal APIs

When browsing the various APIs offered by the federal government, you may have noticed that developers need to sign up for an API key. You may have also noticed that the documentation tells app developers to access the API using specified methods. Along with these two requirements, federal API creators

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The API Briefing: Harvesting the USDA’s Rich Bounty of Open Data Sets for APIs

APIs and apps have been created for almost every aspect of human life. There are alarm clock apps, fitness apps, cooking apps, and personal finance apps, just to name a few of the thousands of apps available today. Most areas of society are well-represented in the app world except for one large portion of the

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The API Briefing: Building Apps with APIs Using If This Then That

In my last posting, I argued that federal agencies should consider microservices architecture when releasing APIs. This is because allowing users to combine single-purpose apps together in unique ways helps people build personalized apps such as a driving map to local farmers markets. When given the opportunity, users will surprise you with the innovative creations

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The API Briefing: Two API Trends to Watch in 2015 – Microservices and Containers

DigitalGov recently spotlighted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) new SaferRide app. SaferRide provides safe alternatives to keep drunken drivers off the road. SaferRide uses the Yelp API to provide information about local taxi services

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The API Briefing: NASA and USPS Explore the Holographic Computing Frontier

Big news in the technology world as Microsoft unveiled HoloLens and Microsoft’s use of holographic computing in the upcoming Windows 10 release. Holographic computing or augmented reality uses computer-generated images that are overlaid on real world videos. For example, a user can view a car through their smartphone. An app can project information such as

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The API Briefing: Bureau of Labor Statistics Invites Developers to Build Employment Apps

The federal government collects an amazing amount of economic data. Several agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Treasury, and the Census Bureau collect economic data, ranging from the stock market activity to local business conditions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) collects information on the labor market and is a rich source

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The API Briefing: Two Great Housing APIs and Why HUD Needs to Build More

Recently, a reader pointed out that some of the APIs I write about are not really APIs but just datasets. Technically that is true but it only takes some development effort to turn a into an API. That is why I also highlight interesting federal datasets along with federal APIs.

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The API Briefing: Make 2015 the Year You Create an App

According to some experts, over 80% of Americans will make a least one New Year’s resolution. There are the usual “lose weight,” “quit smoking,” or “exercise more” resolutions. Another popular set of resolutions involves learning new skills. So, if you are looking for a way to improve yourself while helping others, think about making a

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The API Briefing: Department of Justice Frees the Content with Two New APIs

When websites were first created back in the 1990s, developers perfected their skills designing sites that presented content in an attractive and eye-catching manner. Content was completely contained within the four corners of the site. With the rise of Web 2.0, content

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The API Briefing: Save on Holiday Travels with FuelEconomy.gov Web Services

We are in the middle of the holidays, and that means much driving to visit friends and relatives. I was just in Kentucky this past weekend where I spent a total of eight hours driving. I am sure many of you will spend even more time driving in the next three weeks. So, where do

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The API Briefing: Test Your JSON Reading Skills with the Peace Corps Countries and Regions API

The Peace Corps just released a new dataset that lists all of the countries and regions Peace Corps volunteers serve. The API is RESTful and uses the JSON format. You have read in earlier columns about the different data formats for APIs and how to read the data presented by an API. As a refresher,

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The API Briefing: FRED® and ALFRED® Serve Up a Buffet of Economic Data

The federal government captures almost every economic data trend through several agencies. The Federal Reserve of St. Louis offers 238,000 economic trends through FRED® (Federal Reserve Economic Data). FRED® data can be accessed through the FRED® website or the FRED® mobile app (Android | Apple). FRED® data can

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The API Briefing: Keeping an Eye on Crime with the National Crime Victimization Survey API

Every year, the Bureau of Justice Statistics surveys nearly 80,000 households and over 143,000 individuals about crime victimization. What is unique about this survey is that both reported and unreported crimes data is collected. The survey has a well-documented API which offers data in the CSV, XML, and JSON formats. Let’s examine the documentation to

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The API Briefing: The Fun Finder – The Recreation Information Database

Back in 2000, I worked at a dot-com building website applications such as a real-time stock ticker ribbon and a real estate listings search engine. One of my favorite applications was an app for mobile phones. At that time, I used the Wireless Access Protocol (WAP), which displayed information using a special version of XHTML.

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The API Briefing: Brainstorming Ideas for Apps

Data.gov has 130,000+ datasets (as of November 3, 2014) many of which are designed for application developers. In previous columns, I’ve showcased some of the great applications built using federal APIs. Have you wondered where the idea for an app came from? Some developers start with an idea and then look for the API that

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The API Briefing: Home Energy Saver

It is fall when the weather becomes colder, and people start firing up their furnaces. While I was working on putting in more insulation and installing a programmable thermostat, I wondered if the federal government has an API to help me lower my

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The API Briefing: EPA’s Water Quality Portal API Merges Three Data Streams

Access to clean water is fast becoming a vital issue in the 21st century. Changing climate patterns are drying up aquifers and limiting the amount of water runoff from thawing snow packs. Drought conditions in California are effecting hydroelectric production while dry conditions in the West have increased the frequency

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The API Briefing: CDC’s API Delivers Free Up-To-Date Health Information for Your Blog or Website

The recent Ebola outbreaks demonstrate the need for current and authoritative health news. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the federal information source for Ebola and other infectious diseases, along with other public health data. Data.CDC.gov lists 48 datasets and views containing statistics from smoking to infectious diseases. Developers can use the

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The API Briefing: A Great Start For an API – NLM’s TOXNET Web Service

Glad to be back after a three-week absence. I was preparing for the South Eastern Conference on Public Administration held in Atlanta this year. Great conversations and I can tell you that the academic community is hungry for more government data and APIs. A great example is this week’s API Briefing: the U.S. National Library

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The API Briefing: Finding Help for the Elderly – The ElderCare Locator API

If you have ever been a caregiver for an elderly family member or friend, you know that there are many resources to help you in giving care. But finding these resources can be difficult and frustrating. The Administration on Aging in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been guiding people to local

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The API Briefing: Mining the Rich Data Resources of NASA – The International Space Apps Challenges

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has an enormous collection of aerospace and science data sets. NASA missions and projects can create amazing amounts of data. One example: the Earth Observing System Data and Information System has collected enough information to fill the Library of Congress (Data.NASA.gov). A more recent example: the Solar Dynamics

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The API Briefing: Back to School – U.S. Department of Education APIs

As the new school season approaches, it is a good time to see what federal datasets are available for educational app developers. Visit the developers’ page at ED.gov to find 36 educational datasets for educational levels. The datasets can be accessed in CSV, JSON,

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The API Briefing: Writable APIs – The Federal Register.gov Commenting Feature

FederalRegister.gov just released a writable API that allows citizens to comment directly on proposed regulations. When a user is viewing a regulation on FederalRegister.gov, he or she can click on the “Submit a Formal Comment” button. A textbox appears, and the comment is recorded for that particular regulation.

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The API Briefing: An API that Searches other APIs – HealthData.Gov’s Catalog API

As federal agencies release APIs on an almost daily basis, keeping track of the numerous datasets has become a vital service for developers. The Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) manages HealthData.Gov which currently lists 1,680 datasets in 36 categories such as “Public Health,” “Health Care Cost,” and “Health Statistics.” To help developers find

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The API Briefing: Mapping Food Deserts – The USDA Economic Research Service’s GIS Map Services

Food deserts are areas where residents have little or no access to nutritional food. Food deserts exist because of low-incomes, lack of transportation, or too few stores that stock produce and other healthy food items. Governments from the local level to federal have implemented grant programs to encourage grocery store construction in the food deserts.

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The API Briefing: RealTrack – How Hackathons Help Create Apps from APIs

Once a federal agency releases an API, there are several ways they can be used in apps. The most common method is through hackathons. Hackathons are where an agency or agencies present the API(s) and invite developers to create prototype apps. The apps

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Lean Startup: Changing Government Services and Agencies to Better Serve the Citizens

It is easy to start a business today and especially an Internet-based business. Using the cloud, APIs, and hosted applications, an entrepreneur can quickly build a website/mobile app. The entrepreneur can hire freelancers to do everything from creating a logo to writing a business plan. Virtual assistant services can provide on-demand staff to meet business

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The API Briefing: How APIs Provide Localized Information – NOAA’s Weather Service Data and FCC’s Broadband Services Map

The two featured APIs this week are excellent demonstrations of personalizing federal government data by where a user lives. Federal agencies collect a considerable amount of community data, from the Census Bureau’s surveys to the FDA’s local agricultural conditions. Thanks to GPS, app developers can locate a user’s immediate geographical location and tailor information based

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The API Briefing: APIs Come In Many (Data) Flavors

This week, we will look at three different APIs that demonstrate how agencies use different technologies to serve out data. Presenting data in various formats encourages developers to build on federal APIs. As past columns have shown, the innovative apps created with federal data are quickly growing. The latest API news this week is how

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The API Briefing: The Census Bureau’s Discovery Tool – Find the Right API for Your App

The Census Bureau recently released a “machine-readable dataset discovery service” that lists 41 Census data sets. It’s in spreadsheet form and gives a description of the datasets along with links to the API and developer documentation. What makes the discovery service machine readable is that’s based on Project Open Data’s “Common Core Metadata Schema” that

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The API Briefing: Department of State’s Model App – Education USA

Not only does the Department of State have a great set of APIs, State also has an excellent example of how to build an informative and useful app. EducationUSA is a network of State Department advisers who help international students apply for U.S. university programs.

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The API Briefing: Quick Guide to Using GitHub – FDA’s OpenFDA Research Project

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just released the OpenFDA Research Project. At the heart of the project is the OpenFDA API, which allows developers to perform searches on FDA’s drug information database. Coming soon is the ability to search FDA information on medical devices and information about food. Visit the

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The API Briefing: NARA’s Federal Register API – Learning How APIs Work

Application programming interfaces (APIs) can be confusing when people first hear of the concept. There are the many acronyms like REST (Representational State Transfer) and JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) that further obscure what APIs do. The idea behind APIs is quite simple: APIs are how computer programs share information between themselves. You can experience this for

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The API Briefing: NIH’s Pillbox – Unlocking Valuable Government Health Information through APIs

The Food and Drug Administration collects drug labeling information for human prescription, over-the-counter, homeopathic, and veterinary products through a special markup language called “Structured Product Labeling” (SPL). The database created from the SPL submissions is a treasure trove of health information that is valuable

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The API Briefing: Keeping up with Federal Employee Training – DOD’s xAPI

Federal employee training is about to receive a much-needed boost in the President’s 2015 Budget Request. Training is essential to the federal workforce and agencies have a number of learning management systems to deliver online training along with the traditional classroom training. The problem is that all of these training sources don’t share information with

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The API Briefing: USDA’s Farmers Market Directory API

Around the D.C. area, one of the first signs of spring are the numerous farmers markets. In my neighborhood alone, I regularly visit four farmers markets that have a wide variety of produce and baked goods. Farmers markets are good for the local economy, and the easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables helps local

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PolicyOps—A Better Way to Create and Implement Government Policies and Programs?

“PolicyOps” is a better way to create and implement government policies and programs through cutting-edge data analytics and new collaboration methods. PolicyOps (“Policy” plus “Operations”) is a new proposal for improving policy making and policy implementation. Based on a cutting-edge IT management method, DevOps (“Development” plus “Operations”), PolicyOps has two major concepts. First, closer collaboration

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